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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Oct. 10, 1996 V4, #184
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Mideast Shakes, Rattles and Bagels

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem), Jennifer Griffin (VOA-Nicosia)

An earthquake measuring 6.1 On the Richter scale shook the Middle East Wednesday afternoon, swaying buildings from Nicosia to Beirut, Jerusalem and Cairo. No serious damage or injuries have so far been reported.

Israel's Geophysical Institute reports the quake was centered in the Mediterranean Sea southwest of Cyprus, about 185 miles from both Tel Aviv and Cairo. In Cairo and Nicosia, panicked residents ran out of swaying buildings.

At the Associated Press office in Nicosia, file drawers were thrown open and plaster fell off the walls. In Cairo, residents said the quake was felt for as long as two full minutes.

The tremor was also felt throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories. At least one building was evacuated in Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, the quake was weaker, rattling shutters and slightly moving wheeled furniture. There was no report of damage to any of the city's ancient holy sites.

The earthquake was also felt in Ramallah and Bethlehem, and at the site of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the Israel-Gaza border.

Farther north, the quake shook buildings in Beirut and other coastal Lebanese cities. It was also felt in the Greek and Turkish islands in the Mediterranean.

Earthquakes hit the Middle East from time to time. A strong one a year ago caused damage in southern Israel and Jordan. In 1992, 500 people died and thousands were injured when a large quake hit Cairo.

In Nicosia, it was like a scene from a Hollywood movie. The walls suddenly began to shake. Glasses rattled and plaster cracked. But the buildings were not the only things that trembled. People throughout the city ran outside from their homes and evacuated office buildings, for fear the structures might collapse.In offices around the city, file cabinets flew open and elevators jammed.

Welcome to the Palestine International Airport

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Gaza)

One of the issues on the negotiating table between Palestinians and Israelis is implementation of the agreement on airports and landing strips in Gaza and the West Bank. For Palestinians, it will be their direct link to the outside. For Israel, it is a security issue. VOA correspondent Laurie Kassman in Gaza discussed the issue with the Palestinian chief of civil aviation.

The roadside billboard en route to the Egyptian border advertises Gaza's new international airport. Turn left, and a few minutes down a recently paved road there it is, tucked into the corner of Gaza that touches on Egypt and Israel, under the shadow of Israeli watchtowers in what was once an olive grove.

So far it is little more than a runway. Workmen are finishing the control tower. The low, gracefully-arched terminal building and VIP lounge should be finished by April.

Fayez Zaidan is the Palestinian director general of civil aviation and he proudly guides visitors up and down the runway of what he calls Palestine International Airport.

It is a dream come true for the former pilot who fought alongside Yasir Arafat for nearly three decades. He says he started planning the airport on the day the 1991 Madrid Conference opened to launch the peace process.

Zaidan proudly displays photos of the first of two 50-passenger prop-jets donated by the Netherlands. They will be used for flights to Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar, and eventually as air taxis to link Gaza with the West Bank.

Palestinian Airlines is painted in English script on the side of the plane, just above the red, white, green, and black stripes of the Palestinian flag -- yet another symbol of the Palestinian dream of statehood.

He says the runway is built to handle heavy wide-body passenger airliners and cargo. His goal is 500,000 passengers a year.

Zaidan says there is a touch of irony in watching Palestinians, once denounced as hijackers and air pirates, planning their own airline and building their own airport. Times have changed and maybe, he says, that is why the airport policy will be never to let any hijacked aircraft land here.

New: A Muslim Hall of Prayer in the Knesset Building

A Muslim mosque was inaugurated in the Knesset building Tuesday. The Al-Haq Mosque ("The Mosque of Law"), a special room of prayer for Muslim Knesset members, was opened in a modest ceremony, during which the Speaker of the House bared his feet in accordance with Muslim tradition. Blue prayer rugs have been spread out on the room's floor, and a picture of the Dome of the Rock Mosque adorns one of its walls.

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